Here’s how to walk the same delicate line as Mike Pence
Vice President Pence’s visit to storm-ravaged Texas stood in stark contrast to President Trump’s trip two days earlier: He comforted victims, got his hands dirty in relief efforts and didn’t mention crowd size once. Despite the image disparity, Pence took pains not to outshine his boss: “I called the President on Air Force 2 this morning. I asked him what he wanted me to tell you,” he told a group of survivors. “And he just said, ‘Tell them we love Texas.’” (Trump also pledged to donate $1 million to victims.)
But the veep must continue treading lightly, as his boss shows little patience when subordinates take center stage — Trump did, after all, call former chief strategist Steve Bannon “a guy who works for me” after reports painted him as a behind-the-scenes manipulator.
“A lot of times there develops a competition in between the underling and their boss,” workplace expert Vicky Oliver told Moneyish. “You have to be very careful, because your boss is really responsible for your being there. And if you are too brilliant … it creates a situation where your boss starts to compete with you and will put you down.”
Henry Kissinger was reportedly known to upstage Richard Nixon. Karl Rove played an outsize role in George W. Bush’s White House. How can Pence — and you, the employee — keep from crossing that line? Here’s what experts said:
Nail down some parameters beforehand, said Oliver, author of “Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers and Other Office Idiots.” Before a pitch meeting with a new client, “you and your boss really should sit down first and figure out the speaking parts, like who’s going to say what,” she said. You might also brainstorm what you’re each looking to get out of the session and how you want to go about achieving it, added workplace expert Alissa Carpenter. “Whether you’re pitching to a client or working on a project, you should be working as a team, one not upstaging the other,” she said.
Look for ways to make your boss shine. “A lot of people are really worried about credit and not getting it from (their) boss,” Oliver said. “But a lot of times you’re there to make the person look good.” Try talking up your manager to his or her boss, giving examples of specific improvements he or she’s made within the organization, said Carpenter. “What could also happen is that your boss gets promoted and you could potentially get a promotion as an extension,” she added.
Don’t talk too much, especially if you’re new. “If you commandeer a meeting and you’re always the one piping up with suggestions and ideas and comments, it’s going to occur to people in the room: ‘Why are we paying your boss twice as much as you?’” said Oliver. “It will also occur to your boss, and he or she will make it their mission to undercut you.”
Share the credit. “If something is your idea, sometimes it’s really helpful to say, ‘Oh, this was a team effort’ or to actually credit your boss with part of this,” Oliver said. “‘It was great brainstorming with Joe about this. Together we came up with this.’”
If you’re inherently more talented than your boss, try to provide tangible solutions to their problems and “set yourself up to be the go-to person for the areas that you know they’re weak in,” said Carpenter. You could also downplay the talent gap by making her think your ideas are her ideas, Oliver said. Try framing ideas in the form of questions — “‘Have you thought about … ?’ ‘What do you think if we try this … ?’” — so your boss can jump on a suggestion and claim it, she said.
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